How To Trim a Dog’s Nails At Home

how to trim a dog's nails If you have a short-haired dog or even a long-haired one that doesn’t need to go to the groomer on a regular basis, you might not have even thought about the fact that she needs her nails trimmed regularly.  You can learn how to trim a dog’s nails at home and not have to pay to get it done by a veterinarian or groomer.

Some people don’t really know how long a dog’s nails should be or how often they should be clipped.

How Young Can You Start Trimming Dog Toenails?

The reality is that you should start the nail trimming process when your dog is a puppy.  Youtrimming puppy nails can actually do this yourself using simple human nail clippers on young puppies, merely clipping off the sharp tips.

Make it a fun time for your puppy by offering small treats as you handle and trim each nail.  You may want to start out clipping a couple of nails during each session if you have a wiggly puppy.

It’s important not to force your puppy to hold still for you, but rather be an opportunist and clip a nail any time your puppy is holding still, praising and treating.  Remember to use tiny treats for puppies.  Keep the nail trimming sessions short and fun.

Trimming an Older Dog’s Nails

If you have adopted an older dog, start handling her feet as soon as possible to find out her reaction to this.  Some dogs don’t mind having their paws handled at all.  Others may have issues with it.

So, begin by handling your dog’s paws, gently massaging between the toes and all around them.

Offer treats or do this during a quiet time when your dog is on the couch beside you.  (I know, some people don’t allow their dogs on the couch, but I like to have a warm furry body next to me as I’m watching TV).

When your dog seems to be okay with having her feet handled, you can move on to using the actual nail clippers.  This also goes for the puppy you have been using human nail clippers on.  You can now move to using actual dog nail clippers.

Tools for Nail Clipping

There are a couple different types of nail clippers – the guillotine style for smaller nails and the heavy duty clipper for medium to large nails.  There is also a smaller type for cats and small dogs.

Which Style is Best?

Initially, I liked to use the guillotine style.

guillotine clippersThe blade seemed nice and sharp and easily slid through the nails.

However, it didn’t seem to take long before it would become dull and start grabbing the nail instead of cutting through it.  This is especially not good for a dog who is not comfortable having her nails trimmed in the first place.  You want to be able to make a nice clean cut on the first try.

So I have moved to using the heavy duty type of clipper.

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 These clippers seem to last longer and don’t grab the nails.

If you really want to learn how to trim a dog’s nails at home, just start by taking off the point of the nail. Then you can work your way back by barely slicing off a tiny bit at a time, so if you do happen to get into the quick, it will be very minor and the bleeding will stop with a little pressure.

On clear nails you can see the pink quick inside so you’ll know how far you can clip. With black nails, you can’t see the quick so you will just have to take it slow and sliver off a tiny bit at a time.

One thing to note, though, if your dog’s nails are white – you might think you can see the end of the quick, but it comes to a fine point, so clip a little less off than what it looks like you could do.

Rotary Tools Are Great For Getting Smooth Nails

Another tool I am a huge advocate for is the Dremel tool for filing down the nails.  I’ve tried the kind you see advertised on TV, such as the Pedipaws, but don’t like it nearly as well as the actual Dremel tool.

With the Pedipaws tool, it’s difficult to fit a nail into the hole and be able to see what you are doing.  Many dogs don’t have the patience to let you fuss around trying to fit a nail into that hole and get it filed down and you really don’t want to have to force your dog to allow you to do this, because then it becomes an unpleasant experience.

Instead, I use a regular Dremel, although they now have Rotary-Type Pet Grooming Kits at places like Amazon,  that use the same principal as the Pedipaws, but you can see what you are doing and can do it quicker.

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I personally use the Dremel 3000, which is fairly quiet and has several speeds.  You could start your dog out getting used to the noise on the lowest quiet speed.  But the faster the speed, the quicker you’ll get the job done.  So once your dog is used to the noise, you can speed it up.

Procedure For Using the Dremel Filing Tool

I use the medium sand paper attachment on my Dremel.  You don’t want too rough of a sandpaper because then it just jumps around on the nail.

I hold the paw with my left hand, making sure I have pulled back or clipped any hair around the foot because it could get caught up in the whirling action of the Dremel and pull the hair out.

Then I grip the nail I want to work on with the thumb and forefinger of my left hand to hold the nail firm. I brace Using a dremel to file dog's nailsthe thumb of my right hand against my left hand to stabilize my working hand in order to keep the Dremel on the nail.

I start at the top of the nail and file down over the edge in a quick smooth action.  To begin with, when you are just getting the hang of it, you might be a little timid, not sure of how much to take off or how far down to grind.  The more you work with this tool, the more confident you will become and you’ll learn how far to grind.

One thing I like about using a Dremel in place of nail clippers is that when you’re grinding a nail down, you’ll know immediately if you are down to the quick, because your dog will probably jerk her paw a little, saying Okay, that’s far enough.  If you actually draw blood, it will be very minimal and with a little pressure on it, will stop immediately.

Don’t Freak Out if You Hit the Quick

On the other hand, when you use regular clippers, you take the chance of trimming your dog’s nails too short, cutting into the quick, causing more pain and a lot more bleeding.  If this should happen, though, don’t freak out!

I trim nails for a living and I’ve cut into quicks many times.  Never has a dog died or even gotten an infection as far as I know from cutting a quick too short.

So many times I’ve heard someone say they tried trimming their dog’s nails at home but cut too short and it bled all over and they’ll never try doing it again.  Most of them weren’t prepared for the blood.  Nails bleed profusely if you cut way into the quick and that, along with the fact that their dog probably yelped when it happened was enough to make them feel terrible.

So be prepared that something could go wrong but that it isn’t the end of the world for you or your dog.

Have Kwik Stop On Hand

Have some Kwik Stop styptic powder on hand.  By pressing a dab on the end of the nail, the bleeding should stop immediately.  You should be able to get it at any pet store and it is also found at Amazon.com

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If you are trimming dog nails that are too long, you will want to clip them first with regular dog nail clippers.  When you trim overgrown dog nails, you can actually take quite a bit off.  Just keep slicing small sections off until you feel they’re short enough to use the Dremel on.

Then you can regularly use your Dremel tool to keep them filed down so you will never have to clip them again.  Anyone can do this and it will save money and will help stop the quick from growing out too long.

Nails that are too long may hinder your dog’s ability to freely move about, causing physical problems with the feet and legs.  There is also the chance that if left un-managed for a very long period of time, the nails will actually curl around and start growing into the pads of the paws, causing extreme pain and possibly needing surgery to remove.

How Often Should You Trim Dog Nails?

If you take the time and have the patience, using treats and praise, trimming your dog’s nails will become a simple procedure with little to no stress.  Then it will only take you a few minutes every 2 to 3 weeks to file off the points and keep her nails looking and feeling great.  Doing it this often will keep them from growing out to a length that will need to be clipped before filing.how to trim dog's nails

If after trying it yourself, you still feel uncomfortable and stressed out over it, it might be best for you not to attempt it on your own.  Your dog will sense your lack of confidence and will probably struggle and make it harder on both of you.

The best thing, then, might be to consider having a professional trim your dog’s nails because they still need to be trimmed on a regular basis.  This should be done about every 4 to 6 weeks and will cost anywhere from $5 to $20 depending on where you live and who does it.

Learning how to trim your dog’s nails at home will save you quite a bit of money in the long run, but if it makes you too uncomfortable or if your dog is just too hard to work with, getting professional help might be worth the cost.

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Thank you for the thoughts on nail trimming and best article about dog nail clippers


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